I was recently privileged once again, to be a part of the International Women’s month celebrations organised by Women4Africa, which took place at the Lambeth Town hall. The panellists and attendees were women of valour; from activists, to African Queen, entrepreneurs, authors, mothers and so on. Some great men were present as well.
The icing on the cake for me was the opportunity to speak to the Founder; Tola Onigbanjo, aka @wiseTola – whom I so much love and admire. Not only does she wear the hats of a wife, mother, author, entrepreneur and journalist to list but a few, she does these things effortlessly and with a passion to see others succeed.
She has, with her husband’s support, put African women from all walks of life on a well deserved pedestal in space of two years.
Where did you grow up?
I was born and raised in the UK and lived most of my life in South London.
How did your upbringing influence who you are?
Even though I was raised by my late father, a very strong man, I was heavily influenced by a number of the women around me both positively and negatively. I tend to draw more from the positives and that is what has been key to me doing the things that I do now.
Why and how did you get started with women4africa?
Women4Africa was birthed from my desire after being a hairdresser for over 20 years and hearing the many stories of my female clients, some good and some bad, to see such women recognised for their achievements. At first I was not sure what I wanted to do, then I thought, why not award these women, that way many can gather to come and celebrate them with us. My husband is very passionate about Africa so we came up with the name Women4Africa and that’s how the journey began.
How does your company serve the African diaspora?
We serve the African diaspora by holding the annual awards which is focused on the celebration and elevation of these women and creating an awareness of who they are and what they have achieved and are still achieving. We continue to do so throughout the year by having them up on the website.
What are some of the changes you’ve seen in your line of work?
Some of the changes I have seen is the fact that women are becoming more and more confident and many are encouraged and taking steps to fulfilling their lifelong dreams. More and more platforms are being opened up to them as well as those creating platforms for others. I’m pleased to say that although there is still a long way to go and a lot to be done, I am seeing some positive changes.
How do you juggle family and work, any advice for mothers?
I am able to juggle family and work because I am my own boss. It was not always that way, but from a young age I always used to tell my parents I wanted to be my own boss, not because I could not work for anyone else, but because I saw my dad do very long hours and his time with me and my siblings was limited and he did not have that flexibility that I knew I wanted most especially when I had children of my own. I work hard but I still make my family priority. I am so fortunate to have a husband who is really involved with the family as this really helps me when I need to go the extra mile in business. I’m also able to multi-task so I can combine some of what I do that is work-related with that of my children. My advice for mothers would be to find the right work/life balance that will work for you and your family and stick with it.
If you could do it again what would you do differently?
I don’t think there is anything that I would want to do differently. Everything that I am doing now, I firmly believe is the right time for me. My experiences have all helped to get me to where I am so I would not want to change anything.
Tell us about the 2nd W4Africa awards night and how to be part of the celebrations
The 2nd Women4Africa Awards will be held on Saturday 18th May 2013 and is going to be a lot bigger than the first. We expect up to 1,000 attendees this year and we are working tirelessly to ensure that the night is one to remember. I encourage everyone to come and be a part of celebrating some very amazing women. We have a great line-up of keynote speakers, including Sir Paul Judge, Eric Chinje, Dr Joe Okei Odumakin and more.
Tickets can be obtained via the website http://www.
Final word, especially, to African women in the diaspora?
You were created for a purpose. Whatever that purpose is, go out and fulfil it. Someone, somewhere is waiting to benefit from what you have to offer!
Kudos to you and your team,thanks a lot.
18th May is a date to keep and not missed, see you all there.